ARCHDALL, Mervyn II (1763-1839), of Castle Archdall, Enniskillen, co. Fermanagh.
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Family and Education
Ensign 12 Drag. 1782, lt. 1787, capt. 1790, maj. 1793, lt.-col. 1794; col. (Portugal) 1796, brevet-col. 1798, maj.-gen. 1805, lt.-gen. 1811, gen. 1825.
Lt. gov. I.o.W. 1815.
Gov. co. Fermanagh 1813; grand master, Orange Order 1818-22; trustee, linen board [I] 1819.
Archdall saw service in the Mediterranean and lost his right arm in Egypt, 18 Mar. 1801, in command of his regiment during an ill-judged charge in which he displayed ‘over-zeal’ and got nothing for it except a medal.1 In 1802 he succeeded his father to the county seat, being then on the Irish military staff. He was supposed to be friendly to government, but there was often doubt about his attendance. His first speech, 26 Nov. 1802, was ruled out of order. On the division of 4 Mar. 1803, he was reported to be in England, but absent.2 He appears to have spoken on 22 July 1803, when he attributed the lack of military preparation against invasion to the insufficiently military character of the English nation.3 In August the Irish secretary reported to the premier that Archdall was aggrieved at being repeatedly passed over in promotions of brigadier-generals, and that he consequently ‘though resident in Ireland, could not serve with his own regiment which is stationed in the country’. He professed strong political attachment to Addington, and Wickham feared that, if not placated, he would quit the service and that, owing to his extensive connexions, his voice ‘if given against us, might at this moment be particularly hurtful’. Archdall repeated his complaint to the viceroy the same month, who commended him to Addington, remarking that ‘he expressed himself very temperately upon the subject’.4
Archdall was thought unlikely to come over from Ireland in the spring of 1804, listed ‘Irish Addington’ in May and, after coming over in June, ‘doubtful Pitt’ in September, though initially ‘Irish Pitt’. He was reckoned ‘pro’ government in December 1804 and ‘doubtful Pitt’ in July 1805. The viceroy reported to Pitt, 1 June 1805, that it was difficult to get Archdall to travel over on Melville’s question: he was disposed to support the minister, but felt obliged not to oppose Melville’s impeachment.5 It does not appear that he voted on that question, though he is reported to have voted against the Catholic claims, 14 May 1805. By 31 May he was in Ireland and excused himself from returning in June. In 1806, when his staff duties were in the Limerick district, the Castle thought him an alarmist.6 He was then thought ‘disposed to support the present government but not decided’ and likely to be infuenced by his father-in-law Rochfort. Government were accordingly prepared to support him in the contest for Fermanagh in 1806, but he seems to have been hostile to them on the hustings.7
Archdall went on to support the Portland ministry, voting with them from the outset on 25 Mar. and 9 Apr. 1807. It was as a ‘warm supporter’ of government that he solicited and obtained their approbation in another contest at the ensuing general election.8 In February 1808 the Irish secretary recommended him to the viceroy for the lieutenant-governorship of Cork, bearing in mind that Archdall ‘supports government but attends badly and is not very well satisfied. He wants a military government and a regiment, to both of which he has well founded claims.’9 He got nothing. On 25 May 1808 he spoke against Catholic claims and on 19 Apr. 1809 called for a better method of preventing illicit distillation in Ireland. In January 1810 he was reported disaffected on the Scheldt inquiry, but as having promised not to vote against government. Yet he did so on 5 Mar., only to return to the fold on 30 Mar., when he admittedly voted against ministers on the second question, but with them on all the others.10 The Whigs reckoned him ‘Government’ at that time and he voted against the abolition of sinecures, 17 May, and against Catholic claims, 1 June. On the Regency bill, Archdall was again a source of perplexity. On 22 Jan. 1811, after voting with opposition the day before despite his father-in-law’s entreaties, he informed the Irish secretary ‘that he had five years ago promised to vote with the Prince upon any thing in which he was interested’, but added that he would always vote for Perceval’s being minister ‘as he thought him the most honest man that could be at the head of affairs’. Yet he was reported by the Irish secretary to have voted with the minority for the repeal of the newspaper advertisement tax in May 1811.11
Archdall could be relied on to oppose Catholic relief, as attested by his votes in 1811, 1812, 1813, 1816 and 1817. He would have done so in 1819, had he not been shut out. On 4 July 1815 he was a spokesman for the Orange Order and he was still anti-Catholic in 1829. Peel summed him up in March 1813 as ‘an honourable man but not quite so well satisfied as could be wished. He fancies he has been rather slighted in his profession.’ In May 1814 he applied unsuccessfully to be a trustee of the linen board. In March 1815 Peel described him as ‘a very independent supporter of government—an honourable man gratified with civility and attention, more than by absolute gain—taking offence at the least slight whether intentional or not—and mixing up his whims and caprices with his political friendships in a strange way’. On 17 May he further reported:
as General Archdall expressed himself extremely hurt at the want of attention which he conceived to have been shown to his military claims, and on that ground seemed to intimate an intention of opposing the government in his political capacity, and as I feel perfectly confident that if I inform him that Lord Liverpool declines seeing him there will not be a hope of conciliating him, I have ... informed General Archdall that he can see Lord Liverpool on the subject on Saturday next.
On 3 July 1815, Archdall was in the majority against government on the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill, but the government of the Isle of Wight, awarded him on 9 Aug. 1815, seems to have dulcified him for a time. Then on 6 May 1817 he voted against Canning’s Lisbon embassy, and on 13 and Apr. 1818 with opposition on the ducal marriage grants, while on 21 Apr. he supported Shaw’s motion for the repeal of the Irish window tax. Accordingly he was reported ‘out of sorts with the government—thinking he has been neglected’. His wish was evidently to be allowed to retire from his office on half-pay. Ungratified, he voted with opposition on Ridley’s motion, 18 Mar. 1819, against the Irish window tax, 5 May, and against the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June. This time it was his appointment to the linen board that probably pacified him.12 He died 26 July 1839.